Safety in schools

It is perhaps a sign of changing times – times that are changing for the worse – that what was once unthinkable has now become almost a matter of daily occurrence. Minor girl students are becoming victims of sexual molestation not only by male students and others but also by their own teachers. Even two or three year olds are no exception. What happened in a well-known school in South Kolkata is an instance. A dance teacher allegedly molested a Class II girl. The reaction of an entire group of guardians – not just the guardian of the student concerned – was frenetic. They wanted that the teacher be handed over to them for meting out summary justice. It is with great difficulty that the police could rescue him unarmed and take him to the police station.
What usually makes the guardians so violent is their perception that the affluent and well-connected proprietors of such schools usually come in defence of their employees (teachers) and after a few days of hullabaloo the scandal is hushed up. Two incidents, both in elite schools in south Kolkata happened a couple of months ago. After the initial outburst of anger subsided, the only tangible outcome was that the principal of the school was asked to go on leave for some time, only to come back when things have quietened down. In most such cases of molestation it is usually found that the CCTVs installed were not working. Even in the Ryan School in distant Haryana where a student was found murdered with his throat slit, it was found that the CCTVs had become dysfunctional. In the present case in south Kolkata also, it was found that out of seven CCTVs installed in the school, only one was working. What is more, there was no CCTV in front of the toilet. It shows that there is no system in place to check regularly whether the CCTVs are working or not and whether they have been installed in those places which need to be specially covered.
Molesting a minor girl of three or four years betrays a perversity of mind. It should be made mandatory for school authorities to inquire thoroughly the antecedents of teachers before they are appointed. Such an inquiry need not depend on police reports alone. Discreet inquiries from the local people in the area where the job-seeking teacher lives may be more fruitful. Where minor students – whether male or female – are involved, every precaution should be taken to ensure their safety. These schools charge heavily. There can be no excuse for those who mint money from the schools run by them to neglect the physical safety of their students. An assault suffered at such a tender age usually leaves a trauma that lasts a whole lifetime.

Sunday, 18 February, 2018